CCBC, Union Memorial to accelerate LPN program

Fast-track training aims to meet nursing shortage

April 20, 2003|By Nancy Knisley | Nancy Knisley,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Responding to the critical shortage of nurses in the Baltimore region, the Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk is joining with Union Memorial Hospital in June to offer students a new, fast-track program through its licensed practical nurse curriculum.

The program makes Baltimore County the first community college system in the state to offer LPN training not linked to a registered nurse program, offering students the chance to complete their education and take the LPN exam within one year, said Carol A. Sullivan, program administrator.

The new program will join a fast-track LPN option at Harford Community College, where LPN training is part of the school's registered nurse program.

Sullivan says CCBC had no trouble finding qualified students for the program, even though it wasn't advertised. The college received more than 400 applications and accepted 24 students under a highly selective admissions process.

"We intend to grow," says Sullivan, "but we wanted to start with a reasonable number of students."

Faced with a shortage, some hospitals are hiring LPNs to perform duties previously performed by RNs.

And the demand for LPNs is particularly high at long-term- care facilities such as nursing homes and life-care communities. LPNs also are needed by community health care clinics, substance abuse treatment centers, doctors' offices, schools, psychiatric facilities and home health care services.

As a result of this demand, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the job market for LPNs is expected to continue to grow through 2010.

LPNs are nurses who can receive a practical nursing certificate after about a year's less training than registered nurses and after passing an LPN exam. Although they perform, with some restrictions, many of the same duties as RNs, LPNs must work under the supervision of an RN or physician.

In Maryland, community colleges are the only institutions offering LPN programs, with the exception of the Center for Applied Technology-North in Severn, the sole remaining Maryland high school with an LPN program.

At most of the other community colleges, students must complete a semester or more of academic prerequisites before they can apply for admission to the LPN program. Once admitted, the students must then take at least one additional year of nursing courses and clinical practice before taking the LPN exam.

At the Dundalk campus, students will take all required academic and nursing courses, as well as clinical work, in three consecutive 15-week semesters.

Union Memorial Hospital contributed $100,000 to establish a new Nursing Skills Lab at CCBC Dundalk for the LPN students.

According to Kathleen Stilling, Union Memorial's director of nursing education, the hospital needs more LPNs and RNs, and the advantage of the CCBC program is that it can get LPNs into the community quickly.

"Union Memorial will be one of the clinical sites [for the CCBC program], and we hope to hire some graduates," said Stilling.

Stilling says that until 1998, Union Memorial had its own program, the Johnston School of Practical Nursing, Maryland's last remaining hospital-based LPN program. That school was closed because of budget-tightening at the hospital.

"Nursing education is an expensive proposition, and there was no nursing shortage then," she said.

Among the other LPN programs at community colleges in Maryland:

Anne Arundel Community College: Beth Batturs, director of nursing at Anne Arundel Community College's Licensed Practical Nurse program that began in 2000, says it was designed to meet the increased need for LPNs. Two semesters of academic courses are required for admission to the program. Students are able to complete the LPN program in two semesters, plus a summer session.

Baltimore City Community College: The college began its LPN program in 1998, says Dorothy N. Holley, chairwoman of the nursing program. Students must complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in the nursing program. After being admitted, LPN students take the same courses as RN students for the first semester, but take courses specifically for LPNs the second. Students can complete the LPN program in one year by taking the fall and spring semesters and a summer session.

Carroll Community College: Nancy Perry, director of the LPN program, says she started the program in 2001 in response to community needs that grew more critical with the closing of the high school LPN program at Carroll County Career and Technology Center in 2000. Carroll County's program requires students to take one year of preclinical courses before beginning three semesters of clinical study.

The college plans to offer an evening/weekend LPN program next year. Carroll's program also is linked to the RN program at Frederick Community College. Graduates of the Carroll County LPN program can take another year of courses at Frederick and get their RN associate's degree.

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